An Informational Theory of Political Conspiracies

43 Pages Posted:

See all articles by Thomas Braeuninger

Thomas Braeuninger

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Nikolay Marinov

University of Houston - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 16, 2020

Abstract

Under what conditions do self-serving political elites choose to promote conspiracy theories? We build on existing insights, which maintain that conspiracies promote withdrawal and skepticism among voters, to argue that conspiracy-pandering is one strategy for altering the information environment of the public. We build a formal model in which elites push conspiracy theories when evidence on a policy issue goes against them such as during a political scandal. We characterize the `conspiracy trade-off' faced by conspiracy-panderers: immobilizing voters through conspiracies locks in the status quo and thereby prevents the public from enacting policy change the elite dislikes but it also undermines future policy changes the elite may like. We draw on a number of illustrations from conspiratorial discourse pushed by the Kremlin on Western media markets and from the informational environment in ``diminished’’ democracies to demonstrate how our argument explains variation in the occurrence and intensity of conspiracy-pandering.

Keywords: conspiracy theory

Suggested Citation

Braeuninger, Thomas and Marinov, Nikolay, An Informational Theory of Political Conspiracies (March 16, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

Thomas Braeuninger

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Nikolay Marinov (Contact Author)

University of Houston - Department of Political Science ( email )

TX 77204-3011
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nikolaymarinov.com

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
0
Abstract Views
3
PlumX Metrics